Religion: Definition, History, General Practices

Introduction

Religion involves a combination of practices and beliefs that are held by certain people and is often codified as religious law, rituals, and prayers. It may involve cultural or ancestral traditions, mythology, writings, and history, as well as mystic experience and personal faith. Religion can be defined in a number of ways, these definitions normally attempt to strike a balance between the meaningless generalities and shard definitions. Some people have attempted to use the doctrinal and formalistic definitions, while others emphasize experiential, intuitive, valuational, emotive, and ethical factors. The definitions of religions include:

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  • Notions involving divine or transcendent often though not always in theism form
  • Behavioral or cultural aspects of liturgy, rituals and organized worships often may involve the social norms of virtue and morality and priesthood.
  • Religion is a collection of truths or myths that is believed by its adherents.
  • Anthropologists and sociologists observe religions as an abstract combination of values, experiences, or ideas that are developed in the cultural mix. Religion may be referred to one personal overview of the world and how that directs one’s thoughts and actions.

General practices of forms of worship 

Worship normally refers to certain acts that involve honor, religious praise, or devotion and is usually directed to the supernatural being who may be the God, a goddess, or a god. Religious worships can be performed by a single person, organized groups that are informal or organized service led by a designated leader like in the churches, temples, synagogues, or mosques. There are many different forms of worship; these may include silence, making noise, hearing the words of God expounded, reading the scriptures in a group, prayers, making offerings, and singing, physical movements, and through the use of artistic expressions like dancing, visual art, and poetry.

  • Silence: in this world, which is so noisy and fast-paced as globalization continues to shape the world, keeping quiet in silent in the presence of God is one practice of worship because we focus on God and his voice instead of anything else that can command our attention. Worshipful silences enable us to hear from God and be with Him.
  • Making Noise; it’s human nature to make noise and shout when happy, and since God loves we should also shout and praise him in a loud, noisy manner while in the church, open gathering, or elsewhere.
  • Hearing the words of God Expounded; just similar to silence, this form of worship requires us to listen to the word of the Lord from the people he has sent to us. Listening to the people God has sent to us shows our desire to worship him and proclaims our belief in Him more than anything else in this world, it further shows our faith and trustfulness in Him.
  • Reading Scriptures in groups: this is similar to hearing, but it more involves discussions with other people about the scriptures. We, therefore, display our unity and cooperation with each other while worshipping.
  • Prayers: these demonstrate our beliefs’ that God cares, listens, and he will respond. Praying is among the most common forms of worship in the world.
  • Giving Offerings; giving offerings to God is a sign of belief in him as the one providing us with the financial resources and a sign of trust as the supplier of our needs. It shows an acknowledgment that all come from God.
  • Physical Movement; this involves moving, dancing, clapping, lifting up hands, and bowing down.
  • Singing; is accompanied by musical styles and instrumentation. Singing is believed to breaking down our psychological and emotional defenses.

 The impact of religion on the society

Carl Marx, in his essay “religion as the opium of the people, claimed that religion is meant for the lower class people in the society so that they can be contented with their position in the society. He wrote that that “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature…”1 He further convinces the oppressed that they are in that position because of the punishments from God due to their wrongdoings. Many sociologists agree that religion has got a positive impact on society; Emile Durkheim who is a French sociologist, argued that religions pull together the structures in the society together besides maintaining the social order. This means that society also benefits from religion, and the society includes the oppressed and the poor in the community. Since the societies are built on values and norms that are sacred, the laws are structured in such a way to ensure that they are in unison norms and the values too.

This further means that society benefits from religion in structuring its laws. In the communities that do not have formal judicial courts, religious taboos are used to ensure social stability. Even the societies that have a written legal system, the laws established by the legislature are normally based on the existing religious beliefs. The region also aids in relieving society some of its psychological stress in times of suffering, like in the presence of earthquakes. Religions also provide a sense of assurance and security to the entire community, especially when there are social changes, the society turns to religion for psychological reasons. Though Marx views that society is meant to console the oppressed in the society and so that they can be contented with their position in the community, religion has several positive impacts on the society at large.

THE STUDY OF RELIGION

Study of the religion is an educational field consisting of multi-disciplinary behaviors, the worldly study of religious beliefs, and various institutions. It usually describes, explains, interprets and compares, religion, more so stressing systematic, historically based, and across the cultural perspectives.

The theologians attempt to understand the subject matter of the religion from particular religious traditions while scholars of the religious study of human behavior and beliefs from any specific religious viewpoint. Study of the religion involves multiple disciplines and different methodologies that include anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and the history of religion.

Conclusion

Religion is very powerful and too persistent thus shows no signs of its disappearance from society; it normally provokes heartfelt commitments, forthright actions, eloquent expressions, and continuous intensified debates. Religion will continue to thrive in society because religious traditions are usually adaptable in several ways in society. Religion is normally distributed in all aspects of human life and even in the environment like the media and technology.

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References

Fisher, Mary, Living Religions. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002. Web.

Hargrove, Barbara (1999) the Sociology of Religion, Arlington Heights: AHM Publishing Corporation, US

Marx, Karl (200) Religion as the Opium of the People, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River

Roberts, Keith (1990) Religion in Sociological Perspective. 2nd ed. Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont.

Study of Religions, retrieved on 6th, 2007.

Footnotes

Marx, Karl (200) Religion as the Opium of the People, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River

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